Philippines’ Duterte snubs graft probe amid claims of secret millions in his bank accounts
Philippine ombudsman investigates claims Duterte’s bank accounts had millions of dollars which president failed to disclose as required by law
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would not cooperate with a special anti-corruption prosecutor’s investigation into allegations he acquired ill-gotten wealth, vowing he would “not submit” to its authority.
The ombudsman said last week it was investigating claims Duterte’s bank accounts had hundreds of millions of pesos (millions of dollars) which he failed to disclose as required by law.
Duterte responded by lashing out at the ombudsman, calling the agency “lousy” and saying allegations against him were “lies based on baseless” information.
“I will not submit to the jurisdiction [of the ombudsman],” Duterte said in a curse-laden speech to local lawyers on Saturday night.
“Waving fabricated evidence, lying to his teeth in front of the nation and then you want me to submit to the jurisdiction of the ombudsman,” Duterte said referring to Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang who had announced the probe.
Duterte’s remarks contradicted his spokesman last week.
In a statement, Ernesto Abella said Duterte “respects the internal processes of the Office of the Ombudsman as an independent body and trusts its impartiality in the conduct of its fact-finding duty” and that “the president has nothing to hide”.
Duterte, 72, won last year’s presidential elections on a brutal law-and-order and anti-corruption platform.
During the election campaign Duterte had said he came from a poor family and lived a modest lifestyle which boosted his image as an anti-establishment politician representing the common folk, analysts said.
The ombudsman probe stemmed from a plunder complaint filed before the elections by opposition senator Antonio Trillanes who alleged Duterte embezzled government funds during his more than two-decade stint as mayor of the southern city of Davao.
In February, he raised the issue again, saying Duterte had not yet revealed details of more than 2 billion pesos (US$39 million) he allegedly kept in bank accounts as a former city mayor.
Last month, Duterte refused a demand by Trillanes to publicly release details of his bank accounts. Duterte said, “You must be stupid ... Why would I give you the pleasure?”
Duterte inadvertently brought the issue back into public focus recently when he alleged Trillanes has several undeclared joint bank accounts with unidentified Chinese men in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia and the US. Trillanes denied it and signed about a dozen waivers for authorities to look into the alleged accounts and demanded that Duterte do the same.
On Saturday, Duterte said his family had properties and businesses including an ice plant and lumberyard, adding his late father was a provincial governor.
“All in all it would not go beyond 40 million (pesos or US$780,000), my lifetime savings. A part of that was my hereditary – you people from Davao know this – property,” Duterte said.
“I hate to say it [but] what do you think of us, poor? That we are that poor?”
Duterte has launched tirades against the Supreme Court chief justice, the Commission on Human Rights, the Catholic Church and critical media outlets. He and his allies have then started campaigns to curb their powers or discredit them.
Duterte last week said he would create a commission to investigate corruption in the ombudsman, a move an opposition congressman called an act of vindictiveness.
Additional reporting by Associated Press